Search - Svengali on DVD

Actors: John Barrymore, Marian Marsh, Donald Crisp, Bramwell Fletcher, Carmel Myers
Director: Archie Mayo
Genres: Drama, Horror
NR     2003     1hr 21min



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Movie Details

Actors: John Barrymore, Marian Marsh, Donald Crisp, Bramwell Fletcher, Carmel Myers
Director: Archie Mayo
Creators: Barney McGill, William Holmes, George L. Du Maurier, J. Grubb Alexander
Genres: Drama, Horror
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, Classics, Horror
Studio: Alpha Video
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 09/09/2003
Original Release Date: 05/22/1931
Theatrical Release Date: 05/22/1931
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 21min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

In the bright lexicon of youth, there is no such word as FAI
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 03/23/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Svengali may not be at or even close to the top of the lists of movies people want to see soon; but it should be. Despite the fact that the sets look rather fabricated; the acting by John Barrymore, Marian Marsh and Bramwell Fletcher is stunning in this incredible movie with its fascinating plot. Although the action proceeds at a somewhat leisurely pace the movie never feels boring or slow; the character development is wonderful for an 81 minute movie. The choreography and the cinematography are very well done and the script was very well written, too. In addition, the quality of the print is excellent especially considering the age of this film.

When the action starts, we meet pianist and vocal teacher Svengali who is really much more interested in hypnotism to use women to get their money or romantic time alone with them. In fact, when one woman tells him she's left her husband without any money, he hypnotizes her to kill herself--and she does! His sidekick Gecko (Luis Alberni) tries to be his more sensible counterpart but Svengali essentially controls Gecko, too. Svengali and Gecko rent an apartment in the same Parisian building as their neighbors "The Laird" (Donald Crisp) and Monsieur Taffy (Lumsden Hare).

One day a beautiful model comes to the artists' studio in the same building to work as a model. Trilby (Marian Marsh) is young and beautiful even though she has "a past;" but despite it all a young man named Billie (Bramwell Fletcher) falls passionately in love with Trilby. Svengali, however, wants Trilby for his own; and he systematically hypnotizes Trilby to forget Billie, love him instead--and tour with Svengali on the operatic concert circuit in Europe as Madame Svengali. Billie is crushed that Trilby would leave him and all appears hopeless when Trilby's clothing is found near the river while her body is supposedly lying in the morgue.

The plot could go in several different directions from here; but I assure you the way things develop the film will hold your attention.

The DVD has a still photo gallery as a bonus feature; and you can choose scene selection to review any scenes you want.

Svengali stunned me with its plot and the acting just couldn't be better. John Barrymore is truly at his finest here; he gives a most convincing performance as do the others. I highly recommend this film for fans of the actors in this movie and people who enjoy dramas with suspense and even horror."
A complex villain in an open-ended tale
calvinnme | 02/21/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Such a story could only be committed to celluloid during the precode era. John Barrymore, as Svengali, makes us empathize with him as we are presented with a very complex villain.

The opening twenty minutes or so of the film are pretty much light-hearted comic fare as Svengali is presented as a fortune-hunter when it comes to his women pupils and also a very creative panhandler when it comes to his British artist acquaintances also living in the artists' section of Paris. The movie takes a sharp turn into darker territory when Svengali uses his hypnotic hold on young model Trilby to turn her into a singing sensation. He can make her do anything he wants through his hypnotic powers - even marry him. However, when he lets her out of her trance she feels nothing for him. There is a particularly touching scene in which Svengali talks to "the real" Trilby and she says that she has tried to love him but simply does not. Frustrated, he quickly puts her into a trance, and his marionette parrots back her love for him. Heartbroken, he realizes all that is happening when she speaks her affection is that he is talking to himself. As time passes it is interesting to see how Svengali ages, as the weight of holding back Trilby's true will seems to be slowly killing him. The ending is not sewed up neatly at all, and it is a bit shocking to see how it breaks off.

The best parts of this film are John Barrymore's great performance as Svengali and also the art design. If you've ever seen The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, the art design is quite similar to that, especially in the first part of the film in Paris. The windows and doors all have odd shapes and angles, as the visual style of the whole film takes on a nightmarish and surreal quality.

Sadly, this out of print Roan DVD is the only acceptable commercial product I've found. The rest are either poor public domain copies or outright pirated copies from TCM. Unfortunately, the scalpers know this and charge outrageous prices for this version."